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IMPORTANT DATES   IN THE NEWS                                                                      OCTOBER 2018
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October 11
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ATTENTION ROBS MEMBERS RENEW YOUR MEMBERSHIP TODAY
POSTED 10/1/18
     You can find the membership application card for you to fill out on page 8 of the latest copy of the ROBS Newsletter, which you will be receiving in the mail. If you do not receive the newsletter, you can download the Membership Card here. The membership fee is $25. New members can also use this card to join ROBS and go to the ROBS Membership Page on this website for more information on joining ROBS and downloading the card.
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Check out the Famous People and Events on that special day in October and see what else happened!
Historical People and Events for October
October 2018 Holidays, Bizarre, Unique, Special Days
Bizarre and Unique Holidays in October
All About October
October in HIstory
ROBS HISTORY PROJECT - John M. Sherin
Why did we do it?
     What was our purpose in taking on such an open ended “History Project”; for which we evolved a script of questions and got answers from over 150 subjects for two decades?
     We couldn’t answer the question in 1994 when people would ask “What are you going to do with the interviews?” All we could say was that for educational purposes we had to document our record now or lose the chance to preserve so many poignant accounts, funny stories and touching tales told by exemplary educators. We knew these dedicated public servants might shortly, for reasons yet unknown, be leaving Brentwood for good.
     So, we decided to let time sort out the details. We began scheduling appointments. W
e asked questions and listened saving for generations the essence of what it meant to have been an educator or employed, in this large public school system during the second half of the 20th century. Brentwood remains an exemplar to all others; a diverse microcosm of America reflecting 124 districts on Long Island while simultaneously resembling thousands across the U.S. We’ve accomplished something here to be proud of. Whether we were interviewed or not, ours is a claim of service that few professionals in the State of New York or elsewhere have positioned themselves to share in the way we have.
     INITIALLY the practice of sitting with a subject for an hour and giving them a hundred percent focused attention seemed somewhat daunting to a number of friends and colleagues. So much so in fact that many declined our repeated invitations to speak with us as they left careers or retired from full employment. Despite all assurances that we were not about investigative journalism or invading privacy, they deferred. Now, twenty years after we began, some are saying they may be ready. “Better late than never” we say. However, to all among you who were willing to share not only your classroom experiences and personal stories, but precious memories from your lives along with your fondest hopes for the future, we say “Thanks”. Thanks for allowing us to continue the process by paying it forward as we share these interviews with the Brentwood community and countless professionals and researchers near and far. Through an acceptance of ROBS offer of collaboration with Archivist Dr. Geri Solomon and The Long Island Studies Institute at Hofstra University our History Project lives on in academia as well as in the collection of the Brentwood Public Library, thanks to Director, Thomas A. Tarantowicz.
   Enjoy unlimited visits to www.robsny.org where you can watch and listen to segments from featured Interviews in the ROBS History Project Section on our Announcements Page each month. Return here to listen and learn again and again.

THIS MONTH'S FEATURED HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEW:
Steve Rochester
Social Studies Teacher
   Steven Stanley Rochester was interviewed on February 18, 2005. Born in July of 1945, the first and only job he had ever held had been as a Permanently Certified Social Studies teacher with the Brentwood School District. He began teaching in 1967, the year he graduated from Syracuse. He retired from Brentwood in June of 2004. He reached the age of sixty in July 2006. His first name was that of his maternal grandfather who he never knew and his middle name was that of his father’s brother who was killed in WW II.
   He was nicknamed “Butch” because he was the youngest of two sons and the most athletic. He had been living in the same house for approximately twenty eight years. His older brother Mike, with whom he became close was then living in Philadelphia. They’d grown closer over the years for given their six years age difference, Steve felt he had always been in the way as his brother was growing up. They were never enemies, but their age difference accounted for a certain growing apart.
   Mike was trained in labor relations. He worked for many different companies and was currently employed as a Human Resources Officer with a large firm focused on environmental protection. He’d been involved with union contract negotiations and was trained primarily in people skills. He was married and had three children. Ben, his oldest is a College Advisor at Cleveland State College, the middle child, Marni was at the time, living in Israel and Andy the youngest, was practicing law in New Jersey.
   Steve’s wife is Ilene. Both their boys were in the process of discovering themselves. Their oldest was working on the Great American screen play and hoping to be discovered by George Lucas or Steven Spielberg. The younger one was also working on finding himself. After kicking around for a few years he went back to school and was finishing up at Suffolk with 3.4 cumulative average. “We’re proud of him,” Steve said. After flunking out of three different schools the oldest had a Bachelor’s Degree in telecommunications and was interested in movies and television and had been an Assistant Director on a couple of low budget movies and worked for MTV doing odd jobs as a Production Assistant. He really enjoyed writing. The younger one was also attending school and working with a mortgage company. Steve said, “He’s unbelievable as a talker”. He’s doing very, very well as a part timer refinancing houses and mortgages.
  
Did he see any family traits or generational talents expressed by his sons? A lot of people will say his younger son is like him, Steve said, “carefree, fun loving and outgoing”, but then referring to himself Steven says, he was “more introverted as a kid”.    

  His oldest son is more like Ilene; reserved, shy, insecure and not particularly high in self esteem “which he should be because he’s really a remarkable person” Steve added. Seth has gone on to become a successful teacher.    Steve describes himself as being quiet. He says most people think he’s just loud and obnoxious and he talks a lot. When in front of people with whom he is comfortable and who he knows well he is very outgoing. Put him in a new situation in front of people he is unfamiliar with he tends to be more laid back and very introverted. He admits to being competitive in everything. In at least one respect that hurt him as a kid. While he was a very good athlete, he only played sports in which he knew he would excel. He was very good at basketball and baseball and football. When he tried tennis and golf he didn’t excel right away. He put them aside. He was fifty-nine years old as we spoke and didn’t play basketball anymore, he didn’t play football and baseball anymore either. His friends were all playing golf and tennis and he didn’t know how to play. He said he was almost too proud to pick up a racket at that point.
  He was born in Jewish Women’s Hospital on Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, though his parents lived in Park Chester in the Bronx at the time. They remained there until he was almost 4 years of age and then they moved to Sussex Road in Elmont in Nassau County on Long Island only a few blocks from the historic race track. When he was born he was healthy and doing fine but his mother almost died and for that she never let him forget

    He attended all his schools in Elmont, Gotham Avenue Elementary, K through 6, Kindergarten through Eighth Grade, at Elmont Memorial (which was a Junior Senior High School). He went from Grades 7,8,9,10,11,and 12 in the same building and he walked there every day for all those years. He graduated High School and went to Syracuse University from which he matriculated in 1967. His favorite subject in school was History his least favorite was music.
  He came to Brentwood in September of that year and retired 37 years later. His graduate work began at C W Post and was completed at Adelphi University He achieved a Master of Arts in Secondary Education and a Master of Arts in Liberal Arts. He never aspired to an Administrative Post but was honored having been chosen Teacher of the Year in 1972 and by a POW WOW special edition in which he was named Teacher of the Year by the Honor Society for his last year of teaching.
  His earliest memory was that of riding his bike on the farms where the high school in Elmont now stands. Growing up in those days had been so much fun. Elmont was the country, it was still the suburbs but much more rural than it is now. You knew everyone on the block, kids came outside and played punch-ball, stickball, baseball. When his own kids were growing up there were no other kids playing outside and you had to pick them up and drive them to friend’s houses for arranged play dates. It’s a different world.    Born right at the end of the war, July 17th was the date of the Potsdam Conference. It was when President Truman got word that the atomic bomb had been tested successfully. The code words were “Baby Born Satisfactorily”. He always refers to that fact by saying he was the baby.
  His mother’s maiden name was Finkelstein. Both her mother and father were born in the United States. His father was born in Russia. He know what his name was, and also that it was changed to Rochester.
   His mother had a great sense of humor but Steve recalled a time when he was playing baseball and his father had been pressed into service as an umpire. Steven was thrown and called out at base. He was actually safe but his father called him out because he didn’t want to appear that he was showing even the slightest favoritism. His mother was so angry at his father that she refused to go home in the same car with him and make dinner for him that night.
   His father was an accountant and CPA in business for himself and had a lot of small independent clients. No matter the time or place he was always there for Steve. He never missed attending a game.    He knew his father’s mother but as a youngster didn’t like her that much. She seemed dominating and self centered. His father was the oldest of his generation and had to support the family when his father left He believed his grandfather had been told to leave by his grandmother. Steve’s brother liked her but Steve didn’t probably because she showed her favoritism openly for one of them over the other.
   His mother’s mother lived with them after her husband died. He never knew either of his grandfathers. He had an aunt and an uncle on his mother’s side. They were very friendly with the aunt. They had two children, one was exactly Steve’s age and one Mike’s age. His uncle who was ten years younger than his mother lived in California. He became very close to Steve after Steve’s father died and that uncle became a substitute father and a close friend to Steve. He did many different things but ended up becoming a teacher.
  Steve had entered college with the intention of studying law. He loved history and took a Constitutional Law course but he hated it. He spoke to the teacher about it who said, “so, Maybe law is not for everyone” A friend who was majoring in Social Studies education suggested Steve speak to his advisor. He did and was advised that he could still take Social Studies courses and study law. He finished student teaching and decided to get a job teaching and work for his Masters Degree at night like others did.
  He spoke of several teachers that he remembered as a student and recounted how at the urging of Eileen he looked them up and thanked them for what they had done for him. Now that he had taught for 37 years he knew how it felt to be on the receiving end of such calls and learning you made a difference in someone’s life. He loved it when he heard from former students. He appeared to tear up during the interview when he spoke of being honored by students during his final year in the classroom in Brentwood.
   His first job was as an ice cream scooper at Great Eastern Mills in Elmont. It resembled a K Mart and he said you could always tell what flavor was the favorite of the day by the color of his hand at the end of his day. Baseball was his favorite game when he was younger but as he got older it changed to basketball.
   His favorite family holiday was Passover. In his Jewish family it came in the spring and there were always many relatives at the table to celebrate that traditional holiday. His father would bring up their ping pong table from the basement to accommodate the twenty or more people who would be expected to attend. His mother particularly loved it.
  Steve will never forget the day he arrived in Brentwood after driving three hundred miles from Syracuse University to be interviewed for a position and then refused by Principal, Fred Weaver because he hadn’t registered with the Educational Placement Bureau. Steve was fortunate and so were we that Vince Presno and Milt Siler were available and agreed to interview him. They did and he was immediately hired that day.
   Coincidently, I was the very first person in the district Steve met after his interview. Several days later he came to the school and had met with Milt Siler who introduced us. He met Joe Forte right after me and before meeting Ray Cuneen who he immediately recognized as a teacher he knew from attending high school in Elmont. As a new hire he described what it was like to work in Brentwood; “It was just the greatest experience. It was unbelievable. In those early years everyone was single and lived in a house with four guys, four girls or six guys and shared housing expenses. There were parties all the time. That was the social part but the school was great. I had a lot of friends – being a teacher you had a lot of friends who were teachers in other schools.
  Brentwood has a lot of different reputations. The community now has a reputation that’s not so good but anyone you ever speak to in Brentwood says –oh, you teach in Brentwood? Everyone seems to love it there and it’s true. I loved it. I wouldn’t trade my thirty seven years for anything. Everybody likes it. There’s more camaraderie.” His experience taught him that the teachers in Ross Building were much closer to one another than the teachers in Sonderling. His rational for thinking that was ‘in the Ross there was only one room where everyone could go for safety, or to be together; the teacher’s lounge where you ate. In the Sonderling building you had two teacher’s lounges where you could eat, a Social Studies room upstairs, a Science Room upstairs, a Math Room upstairs, so nobody was together. In the Ross Building everyone was together. Everyone went to the same place and hung out together, commiserated together. They were very, very close. I made some great friends for over thirty years that I still have.” Otherwise, there was only a closet or a book room if you wanted a place for privacy. There wasn’t any other place.” 




   A close friend Terry Cousins had recently passed away as had John Durant. He remembered Stan Kellner and Marty Reiger from his coaching days. He became very close to many of the younger teachers who he said enlivened him and but for whom he might have retired earlier. They gave him a second wind. Steve and his wife Eileen both retired the same year. They had a big party. All of her friends were in their fifties while his friends were in their twenties and thirties. It was the way he had envisioned retirement. Recalling how it was for us in the beginning of our careers Steve remembered a few veteran teachers that were old and still on staff and active. When he finished teaching he was the old guy but hoping the young teachers didn’t view him like he viewed the old guys in our memory. He didn’t think they did. He added, “if this is what being old feels like, bring it on”.
   Steve was exclusively a teacher of eleventh and twelfth year Social Studies. He also coached Basketball for fifteen years, he helped coach baseball for a couple of years, he was student advisor twice, fired twice, due to his support of student advocates. He was active in the union for a while, Chairman of SID, Social Studies Committee and has enjoyed all his years.
  He recalled the student activists in Brentwood he’d known back in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s in the midst of the Vietnam War. They’d been supporters of both sides. He contrasted the apathy of today’s students with the passionate advocacy of students during those times and those of the War in Iraq. He talked about H.S. Principal Stanley Yankowski with whom he was sometimes at odds over his support of student causes and who he still loves. Stan was at the helm during years of the most explosive growth and change in the District. Steve returned to his advisory role some years later with Jeff Wolf when Carmine Puleo assumed the role of Principal of the High School.
  He taught Summer and Night School when Fred Weaver was Principal in the Evening School and then proceeded to describe how much and why he loved Fred in the way others didn’t. “He was a character even though he wouldn’t interview me”.
   He saw his purpose in the classroom as being a conveyer of respect and responsibility to students. He loved the kids and loved watching them grow and succeed making something of themselves as he met them again and again, in school and in the community over the years, hoping all the while that he had made a difference in their lives. He loved hearing from them and listening to what they had to say.
  The Social Studies Department had remained close. He keeps in touch through the end of year luncheon with such as Ray Cuneen, Vic Cipola, Frank Bartley, Jeff Wolf some of whom have since passed away When he began teaching eight Social Studies teachers started the same year, four got fired after two years, four lasted more than thirty years. He was active in the BTA (Brentwood Teachers Association) for many years as a Delegate and then after about fifteen years took a hiatus in the middle and returned to become a delegate for five or six years. Acknowledgement was paid to a former member of the Social Studies Department who became Superintendent of Schools (G. Guy DiPietro) who was personally instrumental in putting forth the Contract that eliminated the need for confrontation between labor and management at the end of each Salary Negotiation. He created the formulae for arriving at peaceful settlements.
   He retired in June 2004. He could have retired earlier had he wished to but he loved teaching and would have remained longer had his wife chosen to continue in the classroom. As a 2nd Grade teacher facing the pressures and stresses of Elementary Teaching today she submitted her papers as soon as she reached the age of eligibility. Steve acknowledged watching his wife work twice as hard as any Secondary teacher and with twice the stress. He didn’t blame her for her decision. He understood.
  He expressed his frustration with standards and measurements of today’s students feeling that so much of what is being done is obscuring the failure of the system to honestly and accurately meet student’s needs.
   He had remained in the same classroom for thirty five years. After 37 years of service he was still employed by the district as Athletic Advisor and returned as a volunteer basketball coach for the Brentwood Boys Varsity Team. He loves sports and has attended more events at home or away than any other person in the district including Tony Felicio. He has also been chosen as a Retiree to Mentor incoming teachers. He loved working with the young people and because he was retired could serve his new teachers with a sense of independence and freedom that gave them an additional level of security and trust in his advice since he was not responsible to the Building Principal.
  He began teaching for $6,300 /a year. $151 after taxes every 2 weeks He loves traveling and is enjoying his travels as a retiree. He spoke of some recent experiences and spoke of future travel plans with his wife. He wouldn’t change anything. He misses the kids but won’t miss the fights. He suggests the system go back to two diplomas.
  He said Brentwood students care and will work for you. Brentwood teachers he added, “are very, very dedicated from the time they arrive in the morning to the time they leave at the end of the day even allowing time for extra credit for no pay”. They come in on Saturday. Yvette Zimmerman a former Secretary in the Social Studies Department Office was a dear friend, especially after her husband passed away suddenly. Yvette’s oldest son Michael was a student in Steve’s Honor’s Class. He enjoyed working with him.
  His advice to new teachers included the following, “Don’t close any doors. Keep an open mind” A lawyer friend of his was envious of Steve for years. Though he had been financially successful he was envious of the time Steve spent with his family and especially all the events he was able to attend with his sons at school.   When asked how he wanted to be remembered, Steve said, as “someone who cared”.


    You can also view any of the past interviews by visiting History Project Interview Archives


View May 8, 2015 History Project Celebration Photo Album

View History Project Slide Show on YouTube

RC21 EVENTS
October 17
NYSUT Regional Conference


November 13
Welcome New Retirees Annual Brunch

RC 21 Website: http://rc21.ny.aft.org

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